Although summers in England can be damp and wet, in contrast to the hot sunny climate that grapevines like best, you can grow grapes in the southern half of the country. Your crop will vary from year to year, depending largely on how much the sun shines. The vines prefer a sandy or stony soil and do much less well in clay or chalk soils. Vines are vigorous climbing plants and you need to train and prune them to achieve the shape you want.
Buy vines from a garden store in spring, taking care to pick specimens with healthy, green foliage.
Choose a sunny spot, preferably south or southwest facing with good drainage, and turn over the soil, digging in a well-rotted compost.
Prepare supports for the plants. For vines growing up a wall, fix metal eyes to the wall and run wires horizontally through the eyes, spaced 12 inches apart. For a free-standing support, hammer wooden posts into the soil at 3-foot intervals and run wire between them.
Take the vines from their containers, taking care not to damage the roots. Dig a hole slightly wider and deeper than the vine container and place the plant in, covering with compost. Water well, and continue to water whenever the soil is dry.
Tie the growing plant to its supports and train the side stems so that only one will grow sideways along each wire. Allow the main stem to grow upwards.
Cut back each stem after you have harvested the grapes, removing the season’s growth. Leave one or two buds on each stem to grow for next year.
If you grow vines in rows, run the row from north to south so that the sun shines on each side of the plant. While the grapes are growing, you can give them a boost with a high-potash feed. Liquid tomato feed, available at garden stores, is ideal.
Tips and warnings
- If you grow vines in rows, run the row from north to south so that the sun shines on each side of the plant.
- While the grapes are growing, you can give them a boost with a high-potash feed. Liquid tomato feed, available at garden stores, is ideal.